Behind the pharmacy counter: The drug theft problem in Kansas, M - KCTV5

Behind the pharmacy counter: The drug theft problem in Kansas, Missouri

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You hear about prescription drug abuse happening regularly, but you likely don’t think some of those struggling with that drug abuse can be the pharmacists and pharmacy employees. (BigStock) You hear about prescription drug abuse happening regularly, but you likely don’t think some of those struggling with that drug abuse can be the pharmacists and pharmacy employees. (BigStock)
FAIRWAY, KS (KCTV) -

You hear about prescription drug abuse happening regularly, but you likely don’t think some of those struggling with that drug abuse can be the pharmacists and pharmacy employees.

KCTV5 News went through years of records in Kansas and Missouri documenting cases of illegal drug use and illegal behavior happening behind the pharmacy counter. 

"They’re stealing them and actually using them for personal use or they’re actually selling them to other individuals to make money outside of the pharmacy setting,” said Alexandra Blasi, executive secretary for the Kansas State Board of Pharmacy. “If you have your head in the sand and think this problem isn’t occurring in your state, then obviously you’ve missed the boat. Because we all know that nationwide, the opiod epidemic is becoming a problem not just with consumers but with other individuals."

Blasi says the state of Kansas has five inspectors checking on pharmacies at least once every 18 months, sometimes those inspections happen every 12 months. Most often, however, Blasi says reports of problems with pharmacy techs or pharmacists come from others working the in pharmacy.

“Usually someone in the pharmacy will realize there’s a problem and report it to us immediately. Or a consumer will recognize that they’ve been shorted medication or that there’s been an error and they will complain to our office and in the process of that investigation we will uncover that it wasn’t actually a medication error that was inadvertent but it was a medication error caused by an impaired individual,” Blasi said.

Ralph Holbrook, a pharmacist himself for more than 30 years, is now chairman of the Kansas Pharmacy Recovery Network.

The organization works with the Kansas State Board of Pharmacy to help pharmacists after they have been turned in and disciplined by the board. The five-year program requires regular drug testing, AA meetings and daily check-ins and is often a requirement for any disciplined pharmacists to practice again. Holbrook says it can be difficult to detect those who have a problem.

“These are people with a 6 year degree ... you can’t judge a book by its cover--same way with people,” Holbrook said. “For the person who knows what they’re doing and is really looking for something--they’ll figure out a way to get it.”

Holbrook says pharmacists who complete the five-year program have a relapse rate of less than 15-percent.

The following was published in the Kansas Board of Pharmacy’s most recent March newsletter:

The adage “if you see something, say something” has become rather commonplace. While the circumstances for its use vary, it should be applied in the pharmacy setting as well. Staff inspectors cannot be everywhere to monitor compliance with Kansas laws and regulations, so the Board relies on licensees and consumers to submit complaints when something is unusual, concerning, or wrong in the practice of pharmacy. Whether it is about a facility or another practitioner, an ethical obligation of the profession involves protecting the public by notifying the Board about potentially harmful or dangerous circumstances in the pharmacy. Kansas licensees are the first line of defense for public safety! This is especially true when an incident involves an impaired provider, a theft/diversion, or an unlicensed individual in the pharmacy.

Complaints should be submitted to the Board using the C-100 Complaint Form, available on the Board’s website at http://pharmacy.ks.gov/resources-consumer-info/complaint process, and should include detailed information that might be important or relevant. Once the Board has received a complaint, the following takes place:

  • Notification to the sender that the complaint has been received,
  • Review by the executive secretary and assignment to an appropriate investigator,
  • Assigned investigator conducts a thorough investigation and compiles a report, and
  • The Board’s investigative member and attorney review the report and determine if any violations of Kansas law have occurred and what, if any, action should be taken.

The Board has the legal authority to revoke, suspend, or restrict the individuals that it regulates. Monetary fines are also a part of the Board’s authority. However, a licensee is always given an opportunity to request a hearing before the Board to dispute the allegations.

Sometimes, complaints are outside of the Board’s jurisdiction, and the Board refers the complaint to another state agency. More often, the Board assigns the complaint to a staff inspector for investigation. An investigation may take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years, depending on the complexity and severity of the issues as well as the caseload of the inspectors. Most investigations are completed within nine months.

Complaints and investigations are not open to the public. However, if formal disciplinary action is taken against an individual or facility, the order is made available on the Board’s website and is reported to NABP and the National Practitioner Data Bank. Such actions and the original complaints are subject to disclosure under the Kansas Open Records Act, K.S.A. 45-215 et seq, once the investigation and case have been concluded. Complaints can be filed anonymously, but these do not carry as much weight because it is more difficult to conduct an investigation, determine facts, obtain documents, and corroborate or clarify information with the person filing the complaint.

The Missouri Board of Pharmacy provided the following data on how many pharmacists or pharmacy technicians were reported and disciplined during each of the past five years.

YEAR

TECHNICIAN

PHARMACIST

FY 2016

94

41

FY 2015

106

43

FY 2014

58

33

FY 2013

76

46

FY 2012

64

59

The following information was published in the Missouri Board of Pharmacy’s most recent 2015 annual report.

  • The Board issued discipline in approximately 310 cases, representing a 20% decrease in disciplinary actions taken.
  • Of the 310 disciplinary actions taken, 136 disciplinary actions were practice related (43.9%) while 174 cases involved non-practice related Department of Revenue tax suspensions (56.1%). Inspections
  • Board inspectors conducted a total of 1,226 inspections of pharmacies and drug distributors. Inspectors/staff also completed 210 investigations.
  • Violations were observed or a Compliance Notice was issued in approximately 75% of inspections conducted, which was again consistent with FY15.

The state said the investigation is assigned by the office or initiated by the inspector on site. The investigation would include reviewing available information and talking with witnesses. Once completed, the investigation report is forwarded to the board for official review and decision.

Click here to search Kansas pharmacies for disciplinary action.

Click here to search Missouri pharmacies for disciplinary action.

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